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Hone Harawira - Maiden Speech

22 November 2005

Hone Harawira - Member of Parliament for Te Tai Tokerau


The other day one of the kids from Aniwaniwa asked what I could bring to parliament.

I come from the classic Maori extended whanau, I have a history and a passion for Maori education, Maori Media, the Treaty of Waitangi, a commitment to Maori rights, and a long and distinguished record in the courtrooms of this country.

One of my kaumatua from Te Rarawa, said he voted for me because I had been singing the same waiata since the 70s, a classic gold number about the Treaty of Waitangi.

I stand here a member of the new Maori Party, but carrying the same hopes and aspirations of my predecessors: Fredrick Nene Russell, Hone Tawhai, Paraire Paikea, Hone Heke Rankin, Matiu Rata, and even the recently refurbished Tau Henare. _______________________

So when a reporter asked me if I thought that the Maori Party was separatist, I said that if unity meant a continuation of the appalling health, education, housing, mortality and prison statistics that Maori face, then hell yes, I must be a separatist.

I told him that if, after 150 years of being governed in the manner that we are, our customary rights, and in terms of the denial of judicial process, even our basic human rights can be denied, then hell yes, I must be a separatist, for only a fool could allow such destruction to go unchallenged.

I wish to extend my thanks to the UN Rapporteur for coming to Aotearoa to hear representations from Maori on the degradation of their human rights.

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When we first talked of a Hikoi from Te Rerenga Wairua to Wellington to oppose the Foreshore and Seabed bill, I had a sense of the anger felt by Maoridom at what the chairman of the Treaty Tribes Coalition called "the most grievous breach of our human rights in recent times". But neither I nor anyone else could have foreseen the power, the unity, and the passion of the tens of thousands who poured onto the streets of the nation to demonstrate their opposition to the bill and the legislation which followed

That legislation is what brought the condemnation of the United Nations upon us, and for all that the Prime Minister may seek to downplay the importance of the visit, the United Nations Human Rights Commission is not an organization to be taken lightly.

By forcing the nation down the path of no legal redress, she has guaranteed that our credibility as a country is now on the line, our status as a racially tolerant nation is at an end, and with the likely ongoing dispute and turmoil, our ranking with the international finance agencies will also be on edge.

Like Nero fiddling while Rome burned, the Prime Minister frolicked with a sheep while the Maori nation was at her door, and the Maori Party will forever be here to remind her of the folly of her ways. _______________________

So why am I here? Why am I in parliament?

My tupuna Tamati Waka Nene encouraged Maori to sign the Treaty, because he said there were already many blue eyed mokopuna, and because he believed the Treaty would guarantee Maori rights, and would not allow Maori to become slaves in their own land.

I am here to defend Maori rights, and to advance Maori interests. I want to retain the Maori seats in parliament, to repeal the foreshore and seabed legislation, and to support legislation which will enable all citizens of Aotearoa to live a healthy and meaningful life.

I am not here to validate a parliamentary process that denies my people the opportunities they deserve.

We are being denied that opportunity by a government that treats us like sheep to be herded from one place to another, which keeps us dependent on welfare, and which seeks to even determine our path to prosperity.

As chairman of my kura, I have seen this government take away a contract in which we had overachieved, and give it to a College of Education which had held the same contract for 12 months and done absolutely nothing.

As a founder member of the Tai Tokerau PHO, I have seen well-run and high-outcome health contracts taken from Maori providers and given back to the poorly performing District Health Boards. As a taxpayer, I watch the dismantling of the Kaitaia Hospital, and I have to ask, while we are saving our money, who is saving our lives?

As a son of the Tai Tokerau, I see a million-dollar prison being built in my backyard while the Department of Corrections freely admits that prisons don't work, and schools sell cakes and sausages to fund their operations.

And as a Maori, I was forced to endure the National Party bashing Maori to get votes. I cringe at the thought that in the 21st century, anyone can be so callous in their disregard for the rights of Maori that they would seek to betray our citizenship to get into power. _______________________

I want to help create the environment where Maori feel positive about taking risk, and where they feel encouraged to seek their own solutions.

I want to work to increase funding that encourages positive Maori initiatives, and resource those who dedicate their lives to their communities, both maori and non-Maori.

I want us all to treasure the Treaty in the same way we are proud to embrace the haka.

I want to challenge Maori to challenge ourselves to be all we can be, to refuse to accept the crime and the poverty that infests our lives, and to lift ourselves to a status our tupuna dreamed for us.

And I want this House to take up the challenge of helping to make that happen. _______________________

One of those challenges is Te Reo Maori.

In 1987 Maori was finally honoured as an official language of this country. It is taught in pre-school, in primary schools, in intermediate schools, in secondary schools, in tertiary institutions, and in homes and offices throughout the nation. Our kohanga reo, kura kaupapa, wharekura, wananga, iwi radio and Maori television have been adopted all around the indigenous world as the model for language retention and revitalisation.

And yet, when in our first minute in the House I rose to welcome us all with a short mihi in Maori, my reception was a stunned and stony silence.

Then last week when Nandor Tanczos returned to the House, and I spoke for less than a minute in Maori, to welcome him back, and welcome the delegation who had traveled hundreds of miles to hear Pita Sharples speak, I got blasted for it by the speaker.

It seems that for all it's official status, Maori has yet to find a home in this House. _______________________

Then when we got into Question Time, the House descended into the petty, point-scoring, often nasty, and always noisy bedlam for which it is notorious - and I watched the Speaker sit quietly by like that is how the House is supposed to act.

And I know already how our behaviour can be improved. A tour of marae throughout any iwi in the country would teach us all the etiquette of whaikorero, and the right of the speaker to be heard without interjection.

And if I might add, without malice, a lesson in tikanga for the Speaker of a House that is becoming browner by the election, would not go amiss either. _______________________

When the time came to swear allegiance in this House, the Maori Party MPs also gave their oath of loyalty to the Treaty of Waitangi, because without the Treaty there can be no valid authority for the Crown in this country.

We should all look to our past for guidance, and we should look to the Treaty to help us face our past, and build our future together. The Treaty is the founding document of our nation. It provides the basis for good relations between all citizens of Aotearoa; it sets out how resources can be managed for the betterment of all; and it provides the framework for an ethical and inclusive society. To deny it's rightful place in our society is to deny our past and to limit our future.

It's betrayal is at the source of much of the ill-feeling between the races in this nation, and I say to all who would bother to listen, that if there is one truth about the Treaty of Waitangi, it is this - there will be no true peace in Aotearoa until this House has the courage to do justice to the Treaty.

A nation secure in it's place in the world would not shy away from the possibility that the Treaty could be enshrined as our nation's constitution, and that the Treaty might have a real place in guiding our legislative procedures.

We have it within our power to ensure that historical grievances are settled justly, and that current and future governance reflects the partnership envisaged by the Treaty. I wonder though, whether we have the courage to do it. _______________________

My wife urged me not to make the following remarks, or to speak them only in Maori to soften their impact, but I cannot change the hand that history has already dealt us, and I will not ignore the challenge that I must lay down here.

I am saddened by the knowledge that all the Maori members of the Labour Party know that what I say about the Treaty is true, but because their future is decided by their loyalty to their party, they have allowed themselves to be silenced.

I am saddened by the knowledge that they too were as angry as the rest of Maoridom over Labour's decision to push through with the Foreshore and Seabed Act, but they chose their own futures over the needs of their people, and said nothing.

I know too, that having rolled over on the Foreshore and Seabed, Helen Clark knew that her Maori MPs would never oppose her when she started rolling back the gains of the last 20 years.

So when Labour announced a review of the Treaty in legislation, the Maori MPs said nothing.

When Labour refused to entrench the Maori Seats through which their Maori MPs had all come to power, again, they said nothing.

And when Labour started bashing Te Wananga o Aotearoa, again, they were silent.

And I note the rewards that were given for that silence, in the handout of cabinet and associate ministerships after the election.

And while I will never forget the sense of betrayal that Maori felt right throughout the country at the actions of Labour's Maori MPs, I will never forgive the Labour Party for what they have done to cause the loss of mana to their own members of parliament. _______________________

And yet, still I have hope. I have hope because I refuse to accept defeat.

I have hope, because by even coming to this House I carry the hopes and expectation of Maoridom to achieve change, and I know they will be there when the call comes to act.

I have the greatest love for my kaumatua and kuia from all over Tai Tokerau who have given their all to support me in to this House. Their days are short, but the Maori Party seems to have given them a new lease on life; a sense that what they have always hoped and dreamed for has in one small part, already come to pass.

I have hope for my mokopuna and Maori kids at Kura throughout Aotearoa - for they have a joy and a passion for being Maori that simply did not exist when I was a kid.

I have hope for the next generation when I hear our young people at Manu Korero say that "If Hone Harawira can get there, then I can get there too."

I have hope for our future because of the vigour and the enthusiasm, the fury and the romance which our people have vested in the many songs and haka about the Hikoi and about the Maori Party.

I have hope, because I know that change is inevitable, and that the Maori Party will be part of that change.

I see the bright and fiery eyes of those who have come to this House for the first time from all parties, and I have hope for the reckless courage of the new who want to stamp their mark on this House and help build a new pathway for this nation.

I see my whanaunga Shane Jones, my good friend Parekura Horomia, my ratbag companion Tau Henare, my relation Pita Paraone, the ever-helpful Metiria Turei, and the dreadlocked Nandor Tanczos, and I dare to hope that whanaungatanga and friendship will create opportunities that party politics would normally disallow.

And I have hope too because of all those in the tino rangatiratanga movement who have nurtured me over the years, who have challenged me, who have abused me, who have carried me, and who have condemned me, and who remind me always that life is tough, but life without liberty ain't worth living. _______________________

Aotearoa is founded on a troubled past. Attempts to colonise Maori have failed, and we remain a country divided. It seems that now, more than ever, Maori need to have faith in themselves; to be confident in their ability to determine their own future; and to work alongside their Treaty partners in meeting their obligations.

Aotearoa is a beautiful country, and contrary to popular belief, Maori welcome Pakeha to these shores. But that relationship is dependent upon respect for the rights of tangata whenua, and the respect for all others as well - but let me make this clear - Maori are here to stay; and so are Maori rights.

I love my homeland, and I want my mokopuna to grow up in a country where he can walk down the street as a citizen of Aotearoa, comfortable in his Maori identity, aware of his rights under the Treaty, confident, secure and pro-active in all aspects of his life, and respectful of all others in his society.

A Catholic priest arrested and jailed in Manila for opposing martial law, once said to me "Happy are those who dream dreams, and are prepared to pay the price to make those dreams come true"

And Nga Tamatoa, leaves us with this little reminder ... "Tama tu, tama ora. Tama noho, tama mate. Tamatoa"

E te iwi, Tena koutou, tena koutou, kia ora tatou katoa


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